"It was a grand time to be writing about cars," said Car and Driver's Brock Yates at the recent International Automotive Media Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was referring to the '60s and early '70s, when the horsepower race between American manufacturers was in full swing, Ford was locked in its titanic battle with Ferrari over bragging rights to Le Mans, and landmark cars like the Ferrari 275 GTB, the Jaguar E-type, the Porsche 911S and the Lamborghini Miura were being unloaded from containers at the New York docks to be trucked to waiting enthusiasts.
Thirty years ago, the enthusiast magazines were our only informed sources of news about exciting new models from American and European manufacturers. Things that we now take for granted were then innovative. "Car and Driver was the first magazine to declare a winner when we had a multi-car comparison test," said Yates. "Before that, the car magazines would give you all the information and then have a wimpy disclaimer at the end of the story telling you that now you could make up your own mind."
In the excitement of the times, we can forgive the exuberance of Road & Track when in its December, 1963, review of the automatic-equipped Renault Dauphine ("Pushbuttons for a Little Princess"), it declared the 32 horsepower car, with its 39.9 second 0-60 time, to be "one of the best buys" in the imported sedan field. Or recall R&T referring to the Hillman Super Minx (66bhp, 0-60 mph in 21.5 seconds) as a "reasonably quiet and very willing performer."
DOFFING THE ROSE-COLORED GLASSES
The job of Sports Car Market is to look at all of these wonderful cars in the light of thirty or more years of use. We now know that the Dauphine was a nasty, treacherous beast with a hand-grenade engine that couldn't get out of its own way, that the exotic first-generation Lotus Elite would set fire to itself while sitting parked in a garage, that the factory head gaskets in your Alfa GTV-6 would only last 30,000 miles and that MGBs kept getting slower, and higher, and slower, and higher until the final smog-strangled 1980 cars looked like a precursor to the odd Suzuki X-90 (another bizarre vehicle that future automotive historians will surely puzzle over).
Over the years, and through daily use, the agony and ecstasy of sports car ownership has become a part of our lives. Learning how to tune SU carburetors by using that strange red-dot-in-a-tube tool, the Unisyn. Finding out that normal gearbox 90 wt. lube oil will destroy the synchronizers in your Alfa Giulietta. Discovering that rust loves German cars, especially Porsches, and especially their battery boxes. That when an MGA has its top erected, the rain will drip directly from the windshield pillar onto your kneecap.
With the passage of time, certain sports cars have become more valuable than others. And when these cars cross the auction block, SCM is there to report on their condition and the price they made. Then, as the dust settles from the thousands of transactions we observe each year, we can try to ascertain patterns and trends. We normally shy away from predictions that are other than simple extrapolations of data we are already observing. In simplest form, we can say that four-door cars are worth less than those with two doors, and that open cars bring more money than closed ones.
During the coming year, we foresee that the very best examples of desirable marques will continue to bring big money, and that it will be easier to sell a 99-point '63 E-type roadster for $50,000 than it will to get rid of a project E-type that runs and drives for $15,000. We believe the price explosion in the ultra-thin market for multi-million dollar racing Ferraris, Alfas and Maseratis will slow down considerably, as the handful of collectors who play at that level stop to reassess their collections and plan future acquisitions. Serial production cars of all types will continue to bring prices in line with current transactions, with perhaps a 10% gain in values overall by the year 2000.
It's a good time to be a vintage car enthusiast, as car prices are likely to remain stable and reasonable. If you buy a good car in decent condition, the chances are that if you decide to sell it a few years down the road, you'll do no worse than to get back all of your original purchase price. That's not an equation you're likely to encounter when buying a new car.
JANUARY IN SCOTTSDALE
You may be picking up this issue as part of our expanded distribution at the Barrett-Jackson and Kruse auctions in Scottsdale. We've been attending Barrett-Jackson for more than a decade now, and continue to view it as a global annual convention for those hopelessly afflicted with collector car mania. There's simply not another event that has the variety of vehicles offered at Barrett-Jackson, and that presents them against the backdrop of the sun-drenched winter Sonoran desert. Further, coming as it does at the beginning of the year, the Barrett-Jackson event sets the tone for the coming 12 months for the entire collector car market.
For we moss-laden Oregonians, who are always looking for a reason to escape the miserable drizzle of January, there is no better excuse to head for the sun than to spend four days and nights surrounded by collectible cars and the enthusiasts who are smitten by them.
Auction Editor Rick Carey will be covering the Kruse Auction for us, and he will join Ms. Banzer, Jim Schrager, Giuseppe Tomasetti, John Apen and me at Barrett-Jackson. If you're a subscriber, please stop by our table, introduce yourself and feel free to ask questions about the market or specific cars that we may be able to provide some useful information about. If you're considering joining SCM, drop by and learn a little more about the magazine, its world-wide family of subscribers, the types of cars that it covers, and the benefits you will derive from signing on.
ON THE COVER
Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson are blasting out of the city of Ravenna in "Record Run," the painting by Argentinean artist Alfredo De la Maria which graces our cover. They are captured just after retaking the overall lead in the 1955 Miglia Mille, and narrowly missing the famous archway to the city as they speed on towards their victory. Prints of this painting are available on paper in a limited numbered edition of 750 for $125 each, and on canvas from a numbered edition of 500 at $375 each. A certificate of authenticity signed by the artist accompanies each print. Contact Blackhawk Editions, 925-736-3444 (CA), fax 925-736-4375, www.blackhawkart.com.